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NBA's 2012-13 All-Deadweight Team

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

NBA's 2012-13 All-Deadweight Team

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    When a star player leaves town or suffers an injury, it can be devastating. Just look at LeBron James' departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers or the impact of Derrick Rose's knee injury on the Chicago Bulls' 2012 playoff run.

    But some players are just dead weight. In fact, the Italian for "dead weight" is Andrea Bargnani.

    In certain instances, the loss of a star player actually results in the team playing better, showing more cohesion and tenacity. Is it that the team has forged a character of will and determination in response to the adversity, or was that player actually detrimental to his team in some way that was previously hidden by gaudy statistics?

    In fact, it is usually the latter. And it turns out there's a name for that phenomenon.

    Bill Simmons, writing for ESPN, credited a friend with inventing the so-called "Ewing Theory," stating: "The theory was created in the mid-'90s by Dave Cirilli, a friend of mine who was convinced that Patrick Ewing's teams (both at Georgetown and with New York) inexplicably played better when Ewing was either injured or missing extended stretches because of foul trouble."

    For Cirilli, the theory was validated by the University of Connecticut's ascension to the No. 1 ranking after Donyell Marshall departed for the 1994 NBA draft.

    Star leaves team; team is written off; team gets better.

    But it can't be just any star. It must be one who, as Simmons puts it, "receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him."

    That sounds like a player who is dead weight. So here's the All-Deadweight starting five.

PG Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets (from New York Knicks)

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    You probably thought that if I included anything to do with the New York Knicks in this slide show, it would be Amar'e Stoudemire. But I'm reserving my judgment on that one. Jeremy Lin is another story altogether.

    After the international media whirlwind that whipped up during Linsanity last year, the Knicks were reeling from the roller coaster that was their season.

    Lin's contribution to the team amounted to 25 starts and his breakout game off the bench against the Brooklyn Nets (nee New Jersey). The team went a respectable 16-10 in those games.

    But under new coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks posted a 12-5 record down the stretch without Lin in the lineup.

    Then he was unable to play in the playoffs because he was only "85 percent" (via New York Post).

    While Lin was the spark plug for Mike D'Antoni's offense (and the savior of his job, briefly), his contract was up at season's end and the free-agent market was abuzz.

    Despite the popular call to re-sign Lin, GM Glen Grunwald refused to match the Houston Rockets' offer (even though Lin had won early-Bird rights through arbitration).

    It's hard to recall the hair-pulling and fury over Lin's departure, but it was very real. Instead, the Knicks acquired 39-year-old Jason Kidd and a familiar face in Raymond Felton.

    The Knickerbockers (23-11) now sit in second place in the East, at the right hand of the Miami Heat. Lin, meanwhile, has become the second fiddle to James Harden.

    Houston is playing decent basketball, but while Lin's minutes have increased this season, his scoring average and shooting percentage are down.

SG Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks (from Golden State Warriors)

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    Late last season, the Golden State Warriors traded Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut. Ellis had led the Warriors in scoring for the past three seasons.

    But there was something insidious about Ellis' scoring. He was using up too much of the offense. Perhaps that's why they were 23-43, two games out of last place in the West.

    Last season, Ellis had the seventh highest usage rate ("percentage of offensive possessions used by a player during his time on the floor") in the NBA (per HoopData.com). Of those seven players, Ellis had the lowest shooting percentage.

    Who were the others? Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade. Now those are players that merit a very high percentage of their team's possessions. Ellis, on the other hand, is dead weight.

    Golden State is without Ellis this season (and essentially without Bogut too, who has played in only four games), but they have stormed their way to a 22-11 record. They are just half a game out of fourth place in the West.

    Stephen Curry has been phenomenal and has risen to be the leader of the team. Klay Thompson is now a regular starter and his production has increased. David Lee has been even better on offense.

    Consequently, the Warriors' scoring average is up from 97.8 last season to 101.4 this season. Even their defense has improved. And now poor Monta Ellis has to live in Wisconsin instead of the Bay Area.

SF Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta Hawks)

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    Joe Johnson was jettisoned from the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, and all they requested in return was the flotsam and jetsam of the Brooklyn Nets roster.

    This amounted to Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro (plus a 2013 first-round pick from Houston and a second-rounder in 2017). Morrow and Stevenson see some time with Atlanta's second unit, but Petro is buried on the bench and the others are not on the roster.

    Without the All-Star Johnson, the Hawks have soared to a 20-12 record. They're third place in the East and three games out of first.

    Johnson's absence has given Josh Smith more room to work. Lou Williams and Jeff Teague have been more than happy to supplement the scoring, and Kyle Korver has been terrifying defenses from the perimeter.

    Atlanta has been the surprise story of the Eastern Conference so far, and they seem overjoyed that Joe Johnson's max contract and poor postseason shooting percentage are on another team's roster.

PF Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (Injury)

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    Okay, this one comes on a technicality. Of course Dirk Nowitzki was instrumental in the Dallas Mavericks capturing the 2011 NBA title. But he's the only remaining member of the core from that team. Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry have different addresses. It's all on Dirk now.

    This season, the Mavericks were 12-15 and eagerly awaiting the return of Nowitzki from a knee injury. He came back, and they have lost seven of their last eight games.

    Granted, it was a tough stretch of schedule, but Dirk has been unable to guide his charges. He has resorted to pouting in the media about how the front office hasn't done enough to help him win another championship (via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com).

    While it's true that Mark Cuban was in L.A. filming Shark Tank when Deron Williams visited the team, the Mavs weren't total losers in the offseason. They added nice pieces in Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Elton Brand to the roster.

    Chiefly, they brought in a proficient scorer in O.J. Mayo, but now he and Nowitzki can't seem to decide which one of them is the scorer.

    For some reason, the Mavs have hit the schneid since Dirk returned. While they weren't exactly flourishing without him, they also weren't mired in an ugly string of losses.

    Maybe the key is to get Dirk mad. As owner Mark Cuban told ESPNDallas.com by email, "That's Dirk. He uses being mad for personal motivation."

C Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (Injury)

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    The Toronto Raptors play in a stacked Atlantic Division, so it was important to get off to a good start this season. Then they lost 19 out of their first 23 games.

    It was at that point that Andrea Bargnani was lost to an elbow injury.

    Without Bargnani, the Raptors lost to the Brooklyn Nets. Then they embarked on a five-game winning streak and ended up taking eight of their next nine games.

    When they were without their Italian center, who is capable of scoring 20 points a night, the Raptors won more often in those first six games than they had in the previous 23.

    But why?

    Well, there was Bargnani's awful shooting percentage (39.8 percent), which is absurdly low for someone who is 7'0". There was also his disappointing rebounding rate (4.3 per game in 32.8 minutes).

    Instead, Toronto has relied upon Ed Davis and Amir Johnson (subbing for the injured Jonas Valančiūnas). Neither possesses Bargnani's dynamic scoring, but they both shoot more efficiently and crash the boards better than the Italian.

    And they've done so well, the Toronto Sun reports that Davis will retain his starting spot even after Bargnani returns.

    The Raptors' defense has also improved without Bargnani. This frontcourt never would have allowed the Utah Jazz to score 271 points in two games against them.

    While the Raptors certainly have a long way to go, it might be time to dress Bargnani up as a trade chip as soon as he's healthy. Marc Stein of ESPN quotes a source close to the situation as saying Bargnani is a "lock to be moved."

Coach Mike D'Antoni, L.A. Lakers (from New York Knicks)

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    On March 14, Mike D'Antoni held a morning practice with the New York Knicks and then announced his midseason resignation. The team had an 18-24 record.

    Under interim coach Mike Woodson, the Knicks proceeded to go 18-6 down the stretch.

    Apparently, D'Antoni just missed Steve Nash. After taking a brief sabbatical from coaching, D'Antoni stepped into the L.A. Lakers snafu. Now they are 15-18 and 11 games back in the West.

    He has managed to make Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace forget how to play defense, and the floundering Lakers are still not healthy while clawing their way out of 11th place.

    Meanwhile, the Knicks are one game out of first place in the East.

    That's what you get for hiring a basketball coach that looks like a hockey coach.

    While D'Antoni did have some excellent seasons with the Phoenix Suns, they struggled in the playoffs, which is the time of year when you typically face the best defenses.

    And D'Antoni's focus on offense (in seven seconds or less) was always to the detriment of team defense.

    Sometimes, gurus of offense should not be made head coaches. Just ask Norv Turner.

More on the Ewing Theory

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    Patrick Ewing is the New York Knicks franchise leader in games, minutes, points, rebounds, blocks and steals. But he never brought a championship to Madison Square Garden.

    After Bill Simmons and his friend created the Ewing theory in the mid-'90s, Ewing himself was involved in a case study for his namesake:

    During the '99 NBA Playoffs, Ewing tore an Achilles tendon during the second game of the Eastern finals against Indiana. With Ewing finished for the playoffs and nobody else on the Knicks who could handle Rik Smits, the series seemed like a foregone conclusion...I e-mailed Dave that week to say, "This is the greatest test yet."...The Knicks won three of the next four and advanced to the NBA Finals for only the second time in 26 years.

    While the Knicks would fall to the San Antonio Spurs in the finals, we can blame David Robinson and Tim Duncan for that.

    It's also worth nothing that while the Knicks sometimes thrived in Ewing's absence, there also came the "Ewing curse"—the decade of futility brought on by trading Ewing to the Seattle SuperSonics.

    There are other historic examples of the Ewing Theory. The 1998 Tennessee Volunteers without Peyton Manning, the 1996 New York Yankees without Don Mattingly or the 1972 L.A. Lakers without Elgin Baylor.

    These players shouldn't take it personally. They were great players. But sometimes in team sports, there is such a thing as addition by subtraction.

     

    Note: All Statistics accurate as of Jan. 7, 2013.

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